Those Who Understand Stats Less Prone To COVID

New Research from the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), suggests that people who understand statistics and data are more likely to take COVID-19 prevention advice seriously.

The Results

The research results, published in the paper ‘The Role of Statistical Literacy in Risk Perceptions and Behaviour During the COVID-19 Pandemic’ suggest that people are more likely to voluntarily comply and wear a mask, practice social distancing and get vaccinated to prevent others from getting infected if they understand statistics and data. The research results also suggest that statistical literacy leads to a better understanding of the virus threat, the ability to keep up with changes in the situation, and the ability to more accurately incorporate new information in the formation of expectations.

By the same token, researchers Professor Daniel Metzger and Dr Mikael Paaso from RSM and Dr Vesa Pursiainen from the University of St. Gallen’s suggest that those individuals who don’t have a good understanding of statistics can make less well informed and potentially inappropriate decision making which could make them more likely to catch the virus.

Confidence in Science

Those who more are statistically literate also have a higher level of confidence in science and in healthcare and this is thought to be one of the main reasons why statistically literate people generally consider flu vaccinations more important.  It follows, therefore that statistically literate people may be more likely to voluntarily receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The research results also suggest that statistically literate people are likely to have been less satisfied with communication by the government during the pandemic, as well as being less satisfied with advice coming from media and science.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The research results appear to show that those who understand statistics and data may be better equipped to protect themselves (and others) during the pandemic and to act in a way that appears to be responsible given the messages from science, the government, and the media. The results also suggest that there is an education gap in the population that could be contributing to a higher infection rate.  This means that more effort is needed by government and health organisations to clearly explain and present any statistical data and how this relates to government advice and measures. Clear explanations of what figures, charts/graphs and pandemic statistics mean could lead to wider understanding and acceptance and could make more people voluntarily compliant in a beneficial way.  This is particularly important as regards to information about the new vaccines and how safe they are, given what appears to be a fast development time.  Employing other methods such as showing influencers, celebrities, and people who appeal to many different reference groups receiving the vaccine and endorsing advice and measures may also help.  It should be remembered, however, that there are many different influences on attitudes and opinions in addition to just statistical literacy and a more holistic approach may be needed to tackle what is a critical issue.

Bitcoin Skyrockets

The value of the Bitcoin cryptocurrency has risen sharply, reaching a value of £22,000 for the first time ever.

Bitcoin

Bitcoin is a digital web-based currency that operates without the need for central banks and uses highly secure encryption to regulate the currency units and to verify transfers of funds. Bitcoin, which was first produced in 2009, uses the ‘Blockchain’ technology. Blockchain is an open and programmable technology that can be used to record transactions for virtually anything of value that can be converted to code and is often referred to as a kind of ‘incorruptible ledger’.

Bad Times

Back in 2017, after a meteoric rise in value, the Bitcoin value ‘bubble’ famously burst and took a nosedive in 2018, hitting a 4-month low in November 2018.  At the time, this crash was attributed to factors such as the overconsumption of bitcoin in the first place, extra regulation in the US., investors’ fears over the currency’s volatility, security fears and Investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission of initial coin offerings and crypto exchanges, as well as too long a wait for the January 2019 launch of bitcoin futures by Bakkt, Intercontinental Exchange’s crypto platform.

Good Times Back or Another Bubble?

Bitcoin’s value rose again in March and, on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, by November 2020 the number of bitcoin futures and options contracts open had quadrupled since the same time in 2019 (Bloomberg).  This boost in value carried on through December as Bitcoin reached £22,000 for the first time.

Why The Rise?

The latest rapid rise in Bitcoin’s value may be attributed to several factors including:

– More speculation and/or Investors seeking safety after an uncertain year at the hands of COVID-19 and its effects on the global economy.

– Some investors e.g., family offices, looking for an alternative investment to gold as a way of protecting against inflation.

– Recent falls in the value of the US dollar.

– Encouraging noises about Bitcoin from the world’s biggest payments groups.  For example, PayPal is allowing US customers to buy, sell and hold bitcoin (and other tokens) in their online wallets, Square buying $50m in bitcoin in October because of its perceived future growth potential, and major banks e.g., European Central Bank, considering getting into cryptocurrencies.

– A greater acceptance of cryptocurrencies by younger investors.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The benefits and the need for digital currencies have been understood for some time but their adoption by mainstream financial players was delayed by many issues including a lack of regulation and security fears.  Despite the continued volatility of Bitcoin, the uncertainty of the current economic times, the attractiveness of Bitcoin as an investment appears to be a possible replacement for gold in some portfolios, and apparent commitments from big payment players have made Bitcoin look more attractive now than it has for years.  Some critics still see its purchase as too speculative and suggest that this is another bubble, but economies have undergone massive unforeseen changes over the last year where digital transformation and faith in technology have been accelerated. There is also a general feeling among some big investors that the benefits Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are now beginning to outweigh their drawbacks and that there is a general willingness to see what positive aspects they can offer if given the chance to be used more widely.

Featured Article – AI in 2021 For Small Businesses

In this article, we look at some of the ways that SMEs can access and use AI to improve efficiency and add value.

SMEs Optimistic About AI

Contrary to a popular belief that AI may still be a little ‘pie in the sky’ for many SMEs, an Adecco study (2017) showed that small businesses are more open and optimistic about AI and its potential to boost business growth than larger companies. The study, which took into account the views of 1000 workers in 13 sectors across the UK showed that companies with more than 5,000 staff are almost twice as sceptical about the business impact of AI compared to businesses with less than 250 employees.

Machine Learning and AI

Just to clear up some of the popular terminologies that are often used interchangeably, artificial intelligence (AI) is the encompassing concept that machines can execute tasks “smartly” whereas machine learning contributes to this as machines (through algorithms) can be trained, can learn, and can adapt through experience.

Business-Led Approach

Business-led (rather than technology-led) applications of AI are likely to yield better results as this approach leads to a focus that can mean AI solving real problems in a value-adding way.

Already Using AI

Some examples of how SMEs are already using existing AI-powered tools in a business-led way as part of their daily/regular work include:

– Operating systems and add-ons + digital assistants. These include Windows 10 which has Cortana, Teams, and other AI-powered features. Apple incorporates the Siri assistant and Amazon’s AI-powered digital assistant is, of course, Alexa. 

– CRMs. These include Salesforce and Zoho, with its ‘Zia’ AI-powered assistant.

– Popular email platforms. In September for example, Mailchimp launched a set of AI-based tools to give small businesses access to the same kind of capabilities as their larger competitors. These include personalised product recommendations for shoppers, forecasting tools for behavioural targeting (of those most likely to buy), a tool to help businesses design their own visual asset and a tool to help write better email subject lines.

– Banking apps. For example, the Lloyds Bank, Halifax, and Bank of Scotland banking app use AI to give customers mobile notifications which can be customised to track their spending and transactions.

– Online and mobile advertising e.g., AdWords and Facebook adverts.

Resources

There are many resources and solutions to be found online that can help SMEs to access and use AI.  Some of the AI resources include:

– Google’s AI Tools.  Google’s online AI tools at https://ai.google/tools/ include the TensorFlow browser-based library for training ML models, and ML Kit as well as guides to ML and AI at https://ai.google/education/. Other AI products such as AI platform (for building machine learning models), Cloud AutoML for building ML models with minimal expertise, and AI Building Blocks can be found at https://cloud.google.com/products/ai.

– Microsoft’s (Azure) AI platform ‘Microsoft AI’ offers tools and help to develop AI solutions in conversational AI, machine learning, data sciences, robotics, IoT, and more.  See: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/overview/ai-platform/.  Also, Microsoft BI uses AI to model and visualise business data to help with decision making.  See: https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/what-is-power-bi/

– Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers a set of set machine learning tools for businesses here https://aws.amazon.com/ai/ plus a number of resources and guides here https://aws.amazon.com/ai/resources/.

– Funded by UK Innovate, the GoSmarter Toolbox gives SMEs six automation tools to easily and quickly automate invoice processing, meeting management, online bookings, sales processing, social media listening and more.  See: https://gosmarter.ai/.

– The UK government website provides many guides related to the use of AI, such as https://www.gov.uk/guidance/planning-and-preparing-for-artificial-intelligence-implementation.

– Various ‘out of the box’ AI-based tools can help solve common problems for SMEs. Examples include Timely, an app/digital record of all project and team time (https://memory.ai/timely), and Sage Ap Automation to help work with freelancers or external contractors this AI-based tool manages outgoing and incoming expenses and does the banking reconciliation. Other interesting ‘out of the box’ examples include Brisk which uses real-time data feeds to automate the monitoring of risks and opportunities for small businesses e.g., late-paying customers, supply chain disruption, online reputation, cybersecurity, employee well-being and more (https://www.getbrisk.com/), Scribless which enables small businesses to create handwritten messages at scale (replicate the handwriting of clients) to help create more effective marketing campaigns (https://scribeless.co/), and multiple applicant tracking/recruiting/HR solutions such as People HR (https://www.peoplehr.com/recruitment.html) and GoHire (https://gohire.io/).

Real-World Examples

Real-world examples of how SMEs are have used/are using AI to leverage their resources and add value include:

– Predictive Algorithms.  For example, as highlighted by NatWest, hotel technology specialist Noetic have developed predictive algorithms for hotels, based on data gathered through their websites that can identify what makes a good guest and can help the hotel to keep the guest and rely less on travel agents by offering these cheap to acquire, high spending guests more of what is known to attract them and keep their loyalty.

– Virtual customer service agents.  For example, SoDash, a social media and digital customer services agent can make customer service more efficient by collecting messages from many different channels e.g., Twitter, Facebook, email, and SMS, categorising them and sending automatic responses to common enquiries.

In Summary

In summary, AI can be used to enhance and improve many different aspects of business for SMEs including improving marketing and sales (making them smarter and improving insights), reducing repetitive, mundane tasks and freeing up more valuable resources, helping to manage finances, HR and recruitment, expanding the team with a chatbot, tracking a website user’s journey (and analysing their behaviour), and much more.

Using a business-led approach, looking closely at particular work challenges, and conducting an inventory of what skills are available within the business, companies can decide how they want to begin using AI e.g., an off the shelf solution, buying in initial expertise or committing in-house development time and resources in order to start gaining real-world benefits from AI that could translate into important competitive advantages.

Looking Ahead

The extreme disruption caused to global markets, business and supply chains by the pandemic and the realisation that more future business will be online lends itself to greater use of AI.  With more accessible and affordable AI products and resources available than ever before, many SMEs may now be seriously thinking about how AI can help them at least improve efficiency and improve automation as they look towards making the best of the recovery when it comes.

Tesla Delivered (Almost) 500,000 Vehicles in 2020

Tesla reached its target of producing 500,000+ vehicles in 2020, although it very narrowly missed its target of delivering that number of vehicles.

Target

Electronic vehicle company Tesla’s own target set five years ago under CEO Elon Musk, of producing half a million vehicles in a year was reached in 2020 when deliveries in the fourth quarter of 180,570 pushed it over the line to the tune of 509,737 electric vehicles.  As for its (guidance) target of delivering 500,000 electric vehicles in 2020, Tesla only marginally missed this milestone as it recorded delivering 499,550 electric vehicles.  Near miss or not, this still represents a huge 36 per cent increase in vehicle deliveries on the previous year.

New Models Helped

The Tesla sales boost in 2020 was helped by the launch of the Model Y, the mid-sized SUV, and a general rise in demand for the company’s more affordable and newer models e.g., the Model 3 and Model Y vehicles of which it delivered 161,650 in the fourth quarter.

The increase in model Y production was enabled by Tesla operating a new car plant in Shanghai, and the addition of new battery cell suppliers (as well as its existing partner Panasonic) contributed to growth by allowing more high voltage battery packs to be added to Tesla’s electric cars.

More Factories

Future growth of Tesla car sales looks likely to be boosted by the company’s building of more new factories in 2021 in Austin, Texas and Brandenburg, Germany, although it is understood that these new factories could take 12 to 24 months to hit full capacity (slower than the Shanghai factory).

Pandemic Hit Car Industry

From March 2020 the lockdown measures, a mass loss of income and jobs, the closure of car plants and showrooms worldwide, and a huge dent in ‘consumer confidence’ hit the car industry hard and there was an inevitable downturn in the sales and registrations of new cars in 2020.  Also, The Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) figures showed that only 4,321 cars were registered in the UK in April 2020 during the national lockdown.  This was the lowest monthly level since 1946 and marked a 97 per cent plunge in sales from the same month in 2019 and large numbers of unsold cars were stored outside waiting for an upturn in the market; for example, a vast quantity of cars estimated to be worth £35 million were stored outdoors at Heyford airbase close to Bicester, in Oxfordshire.

At the end of the first national lockdown, however, ‘pent up demand’ led to a boost in car sales, and the cleaner air experienced globally during in the lockdown helped to highlight the benefits of electric vehicles.  A change in policy by the UK government in November also led to the commitment that the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will end by 2030.  Looking ahead, Bloomberg NEF has forecasted that electric vehicle models will reach 31 per cent of the overall car fleet by 2040, accounting for 58 per cent of new passenger car sales and that combustion engine car sales will continue to gradually decline from their peak in 2017.

Competition For Tesla

Although Tesla’s latest figures are promising, the company faces some stiff competition going forwards in both the luxury and lower-priced car segments for the big car companies, all of whom are now committed to electric models.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

These figures, the promise of new factories and battery technology, new models, hope in the marketplace for 2021 thanks to vaccines, and commitments by governments to boost the sales of electric vehicles are all good news for Tesla. Competition in the electric vehicles market is now set to go up a notch and Tesla are clearly positioning themselves to take on the big car manufacturers in different segments.  The change to electric vehicles will also create challenges and opportunities for businesses involved in the supply chain and charging of electric vehicles as well as sales as customers commit to electric vehicles going forward.  In the short term in many countries, however, the COVID-19 pandemic is limiting mobility and still having a serious negative influence on car sales.

Tech Tip – How To ‘Unsend’ An Email With Gmail

If you use Gmail and if you would like to avoid sending an email to the incorrect recipients, without the promised attachments, with the wrong subject line, or worse, here’s how:

– Gmail settings offer the option of pausing an email delivery up to 30 seconds, thereby buying you valuable time to stop it from being sent and to make any corrections.  To enable this:

– In Gmail go to ‘Settings’ and click on ‘See All Settings’.

– Under the ‘General’ tab (left-hand side) find ‘Undo Send:’

– Change the Send cancellation period from the default 5 seconds to 10, 20, or 30 seconds.